.

Set Free Church Frustrated in Cabazon, May Move Substance Abuse Program

Set Free has run the men's and women's ranch programs in Cabazon more than 15 years and had few problems with county agencies until 2010 or 2011, church officials said.

Leaders of Set Free, the Yucaipa church that runs a faith-based residential program for substance abusers in Cabazon, have been trying more than a year to comply with Riverside County code enforcement, but they're frustrated and they may move, they said Friday.

"We want the community to know where we are, what the situation is, and we're open to a new location," Pastor Willie Dalgity said Friday Jan. 11 in Yucaipa. "But we need help. We are not a rich ministry. We rely on donations to help people."

County officials and two residents who have complained publicly about Set Free in the past could not be reached to comment for this report.

The following includes part of Set Free officials' current perspective, with background previously reported by Banning-Beaumont Patch.

Set Free has run the men's and women's ranch programs in Cabazon more than 15 years and had few problems with residents or county agencies until 2010 or 2011, Dalgity said.

About two years ago, Set Free had six homes in east Cabazon, including a home at Elm and Esperanza, with room for as many as 100 men and 40 women, Dalgity said.

"Now we're down to two homes for the men," Mark Stringer, director of the Set Free Men's Ranch in Cabazon said Friday in Yucaipa. "And one for the women, a brand new home."

The Set Free women's home in Cabazon is on several acres on Esperanza Avenue, women's ranch director Anna Stringer said.

In September 2011, the county Board of Supervisors ordered owners of the Set Free structures in Cabazon to bring six properties up to minimum county building and fire codes.

Residents Martin Sanderson and Carola Baer told members of the West Desert Municipal Advisory Council in December 2011 the Set Free residences were in violation of "public nuisance laws."

County code enforcement then issued abatement notices on the properties, and Dalgity told Banning-Beaumont Patch in December 2011 he intended to close the six structures in question.

In February 2012, volunteers with New Creation Church of Banning, Beaumont and Yucca Valley helped demolish one of the Set Free residences.

Dalgity and the Stringers said Friday they are frustrated with the situation in Cabazon in part because they feel they're being held to higher standards than some of the neighboring residents.

East Cabazon near Elm and Esperanza includes a number of older trailer homes, some dating back to the 1950s, Dalgity said.

"I feel as though we have to abate our properties and right next door are properties that are just as run down or worse," Dalgity said.

In addition, Dalgity said Set Free has been unfairly targeted for criticism and hyperbole because of the clients they serve.

Dalgity said in December 2011 Set Free had stopped housing parolees and probationers. He and the Stringers said Friday that to their knowledge no Set Free clients had ever committed any serious crimes in Cabazon.

"People know Set Free in Cabazon, they know the good work we do," Dalgity said. "Our people help their neighbors, we give out food, we are good neighbors in Cabazon. We have helped literally thousands of people over the years, and people recognize Cabazon as a location because of Set Free."

Set Free in Yucaipa has a congregation of about 275 people, Dalgity said. The church has annual Christmas benefits for needy families in the Pass area. For more information about Set Free, visit www.setfreerocks.com.

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Jeremiah January 12, 2013 at 02:29 PM
Not enough has been said about the problems that Riverside County causes to contractors trying to upgrade properties in the county which have fallen into disrepair or been abandoned. Rather than seeing these efforts as beneficial, they ask for standards that are not enforced on surrounding residences and properties, and (you guessed it!) of course each of these requirements brings money into the County coffers through permit and inspection fees. Churches in particular are being held to higher standards. Yes, I am a little bitter. We tried to restore a property in Mecca but have been held up for over a year in getting permits and approvals - each time we meet their requests we are handed another (new) requirement not required of the surrounding Properties. So the property sits unused and in disrepair, drawing down the value of the neighborhood, when it could have been an asset and bring up the value. The only people benefitting are the County, having collected more fees than the property cost and still not satisfied. They will not even allow demolition of a collapsed outbuilding without a huge fee. So do I believe what Set Free is saying? You bet I do - I'm going broke the same way myself. Jeremiah
Washy January 12, 2013 at 02:53 PM
So homeless and on drugs is better then old trailers and shacks getting well?
LLODOWN January 12, 2013 at 04:14 PM
SOMETHING JUST AIN'T RIGHT, THESE ARE PPLE.
Sally Hazell January 12, 2013 at 04:45 PM
I am a relative of someone who went through Cabazon Set Free. God used this facility to help Grant get totally off of alcohol and drugs and become inspiration to may others. Jesus changed his life there and he went on to help others in that condition. Years later he even gave his life for a friend that he was trying to help straighten up his life. It is not the outside that is important (in buildings and people) it is what goes on inside. I don't know how many people they have helped but I'm sure it is more than the prisons. I have not had contact with Set Free for a long time but I know what they are saying is true. I wish I had some property to give them for their use. Sally Hazell
Rex January 12, 2013 at 06:39 PM
Riverside County Code Enforcement and Building department is a complete joke. Just try to get a building permit in the county. We got a notice to stop conducting operations from our Cherry Valley facility from code enforcement with NO explanation as to why. When we asked we get sent to a voice mail and never get a response. It's a good thing we ignored the demand...it's been over a year now and still nothing. Been trying for 3 years to get a building permit in CV, same crap. Do this first and wait, then do that and wait, then it's something else. And don't forget to give us a big check...we'll refund anything left over in the unlikely event there is anything left over. Riverside County has some of the worst business policies in the state.
deona mathers January 12, 2013 at 08:18 PM
Set free helped me turn my life around i have sent many pepole to set cree if it were not for thsm and jesus i would be dead or in prison were i could of never got the help i needed set cree saves lifes and you lean to beto be humble they blest me with with a nsw life and a brite futchure something tp live for and showed.me.the to walk with jesus for ever we need to reconise not critsise set free it is a place to realy habe a chamce to be some one amd find the lord
Ellen Carr January 13, 2013 at 04:56 AM
Why doesn't the county leave this group alone? A few people complained so now code enforcement is on their back. It seems to me that anyone who's trying to make a difference is harassed. The county should be grateful someone is trying to help those who have drug/alcohol problems. Come on, give them a break!!!!
Renee Kelley February 02, 2013 at 05:49 PM
If Any Town need's a SET FREE = It's This One = Berdoo and all the Surrounding area's are DRUG iNFESTED = =Let Jesus Help These People Thru Set Free = = I have been Clean 17 Yr's Coz Of This Ministry = = Leave It alone~!!! In Jesus name = =~!!
Renee Kelley February 02, 2013 at 05:49 PM
If Any Town need's a SET FREE = It's This One = Berdoo and all the Surrounding area's are DRUG iNFESTED = =Let Jesus Help These People Thru Set Free = = I have been Clean 17 Yr's Coz Of This Ministry = = Leave It alone~!!! In Jesus name = =~!!
Renee Kelley February 02, 2013 at 05:51 PM
If Any Town need's a SET FREE = It's This One = Berdoo and all the Surrounding area's are DRUG iNFESTED = =Let Jesus Help These People Thru Set Free = = I have been Clean 17 Yr's Coz Of This Ministry = = Leave It alone~!!! In Jesus name = =~!!

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